Personal selling involves a face to interaction with the customers wherein there is quick response and personal confrontation. This allows for more specific adjustments to the message. The communication message can be adjusted as per the customer’s specific needs or wants. It offers the opportunity to develop long-term familiarity and relationships.
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The salesman becomes the representative of the company. The emphasis accorded to personal selling varies across companies depending on a variety of factors such s the nature of product or service and the type of industry. Marketers of Industrial products generally place more emphasis on personal selling and it plays a nominal role in companies selling low-priced consumer non-durables.
Techniques of Personal Selling
Salespersons, today, need to be smart, intelligent, and well-groomed. People see as the face of the company and make their views about the company by evaluating the salespersons. Today, the work of the salesman is not just limited to sales but cultivation of relationships. The selling and relationship-building techniques include:
- Sales Presentation
- Handling of Customer’s Objections
- Closing the Deal
- Follow Up
The first requirement in personal selling is narrowing down the selling effort to the targeted customers. Prospecting involves developing and following all the leads to identify potential target customers and this requires hard work and proper time management.
Some companies provide prospect lists or customer relationship databases to make it easier for salespeople. Customer inquiries from different territories through various sources, including the company website, can be passed along to salespersons. Companies can also acquire lists from commercial sources providing this service.
Other sources to generate leads can be current customers, suppliers, resellers, trade association members, various directories, or cold calling (calling unannounced on offices and individual households) etc.
Once the salesperson identifies a set of prospects and customers, the salesperson should try to learn as much as possible about the individual or company’s needs.
In case of a company, the salesperson should collect as much information as possible about the company’s products, competition, market, potential sales volume, the purchase procedure, who is involved in influencing purchase decision, who is the final authority for making purchase decision, and their personal traits.
Salespersons scan company websites, consult industrial reports and explore acquaintances. Kirk Smith, Eli Jones, and Edward Blair report that properly organised salespersons usually develop some system because they have too many demands on their time.
The salesperson should consider the available facts and set specific call objectives that have measurable outcomes. The call objectives may not always be to make a sale. The aim might not always be to get an order but it could be to qualify the prospect, information collection, or get a sales order.
In selling situations where multiple calls are needed, specific objectives should be set for every stage. The salesperson should also determine the suitable approach method and time. In certain cases, this may require a phone call or a letter first. In some companies, telemarketing personnel get an appointment for the salesperson’s call.
It is extremely important for the salesperson to determine how the customer should be greeted. The first impression is not just important but crucial to the success of a sales call. The salesperson must look and act like a professional.
A salesperson should select an approach that suits her/his personality and judgment about the specific sales situation. Homer B. Smith has recommended different approaches. Some proven techniques include:
Ask Questions: Questions should preferably be relevant to sales presentation.
Use a Referral: Preferably someone favorably known to the potential customer.
Offer a Benefit or Service: This can be quite effective if relevant to the customer’s need.
Complement the Prospect: It is a good way to establish rapport if there is anything the prospect has achieved.
Salespersons can use different approaches to making sales presentations. The oldest method is the stimulus-response theory of learning (sometimes called canned presentation). This approach reflects the belief that a customer will buy a product or service if exposed to the right stimuli, such as words, terms, pictures, actions, etc.
The salesperson memorizes the sales presentation, including when to do what, and with the customer after the customer repeats it. A variation of stimulus-response-based approach is formulated presentation. The salesperson identifies the prospect’s needs and then makes a formulated presentation.
Not much attention is given to encouraging the prospect’s involvement in the sales presentation properly. The need-satisfaction approach starts with first determining the prospect’s specific product or service-related needs and tailors the presentation addressing those needs, although encouraging the prospect to participate in the presentation and do most of the talking.
Sales presentations can be made more meaningful with the use of visuals, samples, video cassettes, computer-based simulations, testimonials, examples, guarantees, and demonstrations. It is useful to leave brochures and booklets.
For group presentations, now with technological advancements it is useful to make Powerpoint presentations prepared by professionals and offer the advantage of downloading them on the laptops of the audience. Such professionally prepared presentations can use animation to clarify what cannot be explained by words.
Handling of Customer’s Objections
All salespersons, encounter sales resistance and this resistance often takes the form of objections. Some of these objections may be rational or may be purely psychological. These may include product price and quality, company reputation, preference for competing brands, postponing purchase, irritation towards salespersons, etc. A salesperson should be prepared to face such objections.
However, no matter how well-prepared a salesperson is, there is always a chance that a customer may raise some objection for which the salesperson has to come up with a solution immediately on his own. The salesperson must possess a good degree of presence of mind. In most situations, good product and competition knowledge, and an understanding of human behavior are of considerable help to salespersons.
The salesperson should maintain a calm approach, be positive and make sure the true nature of the prospect’s concern is understood. This requires first listening carefully, asking questions to clarify the issue, and then understanding the true nature of the objection.
However, if the prospect doesn’t really need the product, nor has any resources to buy it, the salesperson must thank her/him for the time taken and leave a business card with the assurance of great service any time in the future.
Closing the Deal
Closing refers to asking for the order. After making an effective sales presentation, the salesperson is ready to ask for the order. Closing is the sum total of all the sales presentation steps. It is the very reason for which the prospect was contacted.
Many salespeople, perhaps because they lack confidence, feel uneasy, fail to perceive the positive cues indicating the prospect’s readiness, and fail to take the step of asking for order. Salespersons should learn to interpret the meanings of queries, comments, statements, or prospects’ body language signals.
As soon as possible, the salesperson must try to close the sales. During the presentation, at some point, the salesperson may use a trial close. This involves assuming that the prospect is ready to buy and might ask which model, size, color, financial terms, quantity, delivery, etc., the prospect prefers.
The prospect’s response to such questions indicates how close the prospect really is to make the purchase. The salesperson might also indicate the advantage of buying now or offer some incentive to act just then.
The salesperson may also repeat strong points of agreement and take a decisive and confident approach and ask for an order. In most business-to-business (B2B) buying situations, salespersons need to be skilled negotiators during the sales presentation. The negotiations may involve factors concerning price, quality, service, delivery, payment terms, etc.
The salesperson should be able to negotiate and work out a final settlement to which both buyer and seller are willing to agree to its terms and conditions. It is a winwin situation for both the parties when negotiations are concluded successfully.
Post-purchase follow-up is very important in building customer confidence and long-term relationship with the company. The salesperson contacts the customer to learn if there are any problems and answers any questions that the customer does.
He also contacts customers regularly to ascertain that they are happy with their purchase and offered services. Relationship selling not just focuses on selling the product but to understand changing customer needs, and solving their problems.
All the company departments must understand the value of customers and provide appropriate backup to salespeople to strengthen this relationship. As long as both the customer and the seller are successful in achieving their goals, the relationship continues to prosper.